Kim Brittingham

Kim Brittingham
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New Jersey,
Birthday
December 05
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Author of the memoir "READ MY HIPS: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting and Live Large" (2011, Random House).

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JULY 23, 2010 4:27PM

On Obama's Campaign Against Childhood Obesity

Rate: 11 Flag

Kim Brittingham Obama Campaign Against Childhood Obesity 

Dear Mrs. Obama,


In response to your e-mail of today, July 18, 2010, from which I quote:

"...help us tackle an issue that is dear to my heart — childhood obesity. As some of you know one of my top priorities as First Lady is the Let’s Move! campaign, where we have made it our goal to put a stop to the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, so children who are born today grow up at a healthy weight."


Mrs. Obama, my respect for you has taken a serious hit since you initiated your campaign against childhood obesity.  I honestly thought you were smarter than that.

All you’re doing is further demonizing fatness and marginalizing fat people – worst of all, fat children!

Your campaign is unintelligent at its core, because instead of simply encouraging all children to eat a nutritious variety of foods and stay physically active, you have made the choice to cast obesity itself as the enemy to be destroyed.

Not every fat person is unhealthy.  Not every thin child eats well or stays physically active.  But by linking your Let’s Move campaign to obesity, you are fostering hatred and ignorance.  You are naïve to believe otherwise.

I don't disagree with promoting healthful eating and activity.  It's inarguably worthwhile. What I have a problem with is pinning "FIGHT OBESITY" onto your Let's Move campaign.

If you promote healthful eating and physical activity, then you're automatically promoting a lifestyle that will reduce the weight of some children.

Therefore, why bring obesity into the equation at all, Mrs. Obama? 

See, what happens is, the kids whose bodies don't shrink in response to carrot sticks and playing tag will be left feeling stigmatized. "What I am is wrong. I'm a freak. What I am is something everyone -- including the First Lady -- wants to wipe out. What I am is soooo incredibly wrong, that the First Lady chose to use her considerable platform to launch a nationwide campaign against what I am."

Mrs. Obama, your campaign assumes that all fat children are fat because they don't exercise or eat right. It's the same assumption so many people erroneously make about fat adults.

I've known kids who were just plain chubby, not because they overate, not because they weren't active. They were just chubby. Their bodies weren't finished yet. They were children, you see. And when they got older, they slimmed down -- naturally.

I've also known children who appeared "fat" by our societal standards, who were only reflecting their family's genetic code to be stocky. Not necessarily obese, but short and solid. As children, they "appeared" fat. However they, like the rest of their family, were healthy as a horse.

But what happens when you bring in an entire society, conducted by a misguided First Lady, who wants to fight what these kids are?


The kid who didn't have an eating disorder before might develop one now. Or develop another harmful way to cope with his or her anxiety. They're guaranteed to develop poor self-esteem. Because the entire country is telling them that what they are is wrong, and must be fought.

And WOW, no worse time to fill somebody's head with those messages than childhood if you really want them to stick.

Michelle Obama, you need to take "fighting obesity" out of the equation. You are obviously lacking in vision; otherwise, you would understand that focusing on the positive -- eating well and exercising -- is enough. Children who are perhaps fat because of how they eat will learn to eat better. PERIOD. Mission accomplished, without doing harm. But "fighting obesity" is DOING HARM.

Admittedly, it takes some extra-credit thinking to get it -- a willingness to think beyond the media messages we get spoon-fed every day. (Fat always causes disease -- therefore, you have carte blanche to demonize people who wear it to your heart's content. And thanks for towing the line, because it helps sell our products. Love, the multi-billion dollar weight loss industry.)

Nothing wrong with good nutrition. Nothing wrong with getting active.

But making children feel bad for what they are? Reinforcing for other children (and adults) that fat children are flawed creatures?

It's short-sighted and cruel.

Think about it.

Sincerely,

Kim Brittingham

Author, “Read My Hips: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting and Live Large”

Coming in 2011 from Crown/Random House

www.kimwrites.com

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Damn straight. You hit the nail on the head. I think this is a useless and misguided campaign during a time when SO many other battles need to be fought. And you're right - the underlying message is flawed and dangerous.
Yes. Eat healthy and exercise is not the same message as Fight obesity. Rated.
As I commented somewhere else, some people are genetically disposed to being fat. Trying to change them may be as futile, and as dangerous, as trying to turn gay people straight.

The other point is that obesity is often linked to poverty. Healthy choices are often more expensive. Tackling obesity without tackling poverty is doomed to failure, if not outright counterproductive.
It needed to be said; I only wish it would get to The One who needs to hear it most. Rated for awesome -- and truthful -- political incorrectness.
@Cranky Cuss, I always knew it to be true, that "healthy" eating is more expensive, but boy, I never fully understood it until recently, when I had to start making cutbacks at the supermarket to stretch the monthly dollar. There were moments when I thought, "Gee, if I ate at McDonald's every day I could do this budget, no problem." And in the store, the cheapest stuff is, indeed, the most chemically, salty, sugary stuff.
I wonder if we can combine two doomed campaigns:

"Just Say No to Let's Move."
This is really a provocative issue, one I find myself vacillating on. I hear many doctors talk about obesity as if it (itself) is a disease, and then others merely suggest it's a condition that contributes to other diseases (like heart disease, diabetes, etc.) In fact, I've heard debates on NPR about that very subject.

If indeed obesity is a disease, then how is it wrong to try to fight it? Do you oppose "fighting" cancer? I'm trying to figure out if your objection is to the notion of fighting obesity or to the idea that simply eating right and exercising can do so. Because I certainly agree with that second objection. Sure, there are many people who can lose weight and drop out of disease danger zones by moving more and eating less. But they are mostly adults, I think. People like me who were thin as children and have gained weight in adulthood. I agree that there are many factors that lead to obesity in children, including brain things involving satiation and mood, etc., and including such previously unstudies issues like viruses.

I remember those Brook Shields ads with the cigarettes in her ears and feeling contemptuous about how silly it was that such simplistic national advertising would work. But lo and behold, statistics show a blip down in smoking during those years in teens, and many think it's all those ads that did it.

Anyway, it's an interesting discussion, and I'll be reading everybody's responses. I'm not as clear cut on this as you are.
PS This reminds me of that boy who made a national issue of objecting to the "Fight Autism" message coming out of Autism Speaks. He has Aspberger's Syndrome and said the message was hurtful to people like him who are just another way of being. It's powerful to hear, but it's also just weird to think about. I mean, most people think about anything on the autism spectrum as "bad," and here he is aware of the fight. It is indeed something different than fighting cancer, which I imagine cancer sufferers are all behind. The obesity thing is more akin to the autism thing than the cancer thing, for sure. Meaning, it's a way of being, it's who some people are, rather than a pathology that attacked them suddenly. I have Tourette's Syndrome--relatively mild and mainly a nonissue in my life--and I would feel uncomfortable if there was suddenly a national campaign to "fight TS," so I do sympathize with your view. But then again, TS doesn't contribute to early heart attacks and diabetes, etc. sigh. Still working this out in my head.
I couldn't disagree more. Obesity in America is epidemic and God bless her for addressing it. Pull your head out of the sand.
My wife's reaction to your post:

"Good grief...kids should not be fat! Adults should not be fat! Dogs and cats should not be fat! Nothing about being overweight is beneficial unless you happen to be shipwrecked on a desert island and must wait for rescue.

I AM fat and I know it is NOT healthy, NOT comfortable, NOT okay, and does NOT require superhuman powers to change. Time, willpower, knowledge, support, YES. You can sit around the dinner table eating pudding cake and lamenting about your health problems and aches and pains and blaming it on your genes if you want, but that won't help any. If you have a "predisposition" then you have to work harder. The formula is the same.

Sure I feel bad for fat kids who get picked on, but telling them it's okay and is just who they are won't help them any."

She's absolutely right.
Dear Mrs. Parrothead,

Being fat may be uncomfortable for YOU, but that is only YOUR experience of the world. How can you so authoritatively speak for everyone who's fat and expect to be taken seriously? Who died and made you The Omniscient POV?

Besides, we have a pretty ridiculous idea of what counts as "being fat" in this country. That's why we have so many women with anorexia and bulemia. That's why we have so many little girls who AREN'T fat on DIETS. And that dieting is stunting their growth. It's making them sick.

We've got a hell of a lot of un-fat people going on diets in this country, because they're scared stiff to be fat. Because they know fat people get the least love, the least respect. But, irony of all ironies, that dieting is what makes a good number of people fatter in the end.

The more we stigmatize "being fat", the more likely we are to have people who can't co-exist healthfully with food.

Additionally, there are a lot of short-sighted, angry people in this country who are quick to blame fat people for their fatness. "Buck up and get some willpower!" they seethe. "This is a choice -- stop playing the victim!" Interesting, though, that a lot of people got on board with making the tobacco industry take responsibility for pushing their cancer sticks on the populace, particularly young people. And yet not many people are willing to tell Big Food to stop loading up their edibles with combinations of fat, salt and sugar that have been proven to be as physically addictive as cocaine, and which are unnecessary. Few people are willing to make the parent companies of chain restaurants take responsibility for pushing huge gooey portions of food on prime time TV viewers, or for creating unnecessarily huge portions, for "supersizing" their meals or inventing "Fourth Meal" as Taco Bell has done -- all in the name of SELLING MORE. It's just more classic, corporate greed.

But it's so popular to shit on fat people, nobody WANTS to make Big Food accountable. It would mean we'd have to shift our blame away from fat people, and kicking them is just too much fun to sacrifice. There are so many fat people out there (40% of the population, according to recent stats) that we're bound to run into a few of them each day -- and each encounter is a brand new chance for us to unleash our frustration, our guilt for our OWN gluttony, our self-hate of our OWN "imperfect" bodies, onto SOMEBODY ELSE. Gee, it's not NEARLY as effective a release as directing your hatred towards some faceless corporation. It's much more satisfying to sneer at a real person, to watch a fat person's swollen face fall as you reject them -- for a job, for a date, for friendship.

Mrs. Parrothead, I'm taking a guess here that you grew up with at least one very unforgiving parent. Somebody who didn't tolerate time wasting of any sort. Someone you told you that crying was for babies. Military, even? You, like your harsh guardian, don't have an appreciation for the complexities of human nature and human emotions. How do I know? Because you're so sure of yourself when you summarily say that "telling [fat kids who get picked on that being fat is] okay and is just who they are won't help them any."

You don't know much about psychology, do you, Mrs. Parrothead?

Ironic name, there. You're probably still parroting what somebody told you long ago.

No tears. No blubbering. No fat. No excuses. Life is tough. Get to work. Work harder. It's the only thing that pays in life. There are no free rides. Being soft makes people weak. Do what the Boss Man says and shut your mouth. Don't think. Don't think at all. Obey. You have your marching orders, now march. There's no crying in baseball. Feelings are bad. Feelings are for pussies. Head up, chest out. Keep a stiff upper lip. Keep moving. Don't stop. Don't stop to think. Don't stop to feel. It's all or nothing. You're either a winner in this world or you're a loser. And no child of mine is going to be a fat loser.

Right?

The problem with that approach, madam, is that those feelings always come back to bite you in the ass, and every time you do, you're set back. Ten steps forward, twenty steps back.

And every time you fall back, you'll wonder what's wrong with you, because you can't seem to "get it together". You feel confused.

Because nobody told you you're not a robot.

Tough love rarely creates lasting change in ANYONE. It certainly doesn't work for people with deeply ingrained habits of poor eating and sedentary living. IT DOES NOT WORK.

An approach that is MUCH more successful, however, is starting from a place of acceptance. When one's self-esteem is nurtured, he or she is far more likely to make gradual, loving, LASTING changes.

Your martinet approach is naive, old-fashioned, and indicative of your ability to overcome your self-loathing. You're scared to death that if you forgive yourself, go easy on yourself, dare to see yourself as beautiful or treat yourself gently, that you'll fold in on yourself like a sand hole. That you'll die in a vast puddle of yourself. That you'll fall into a deep well of the worst of yourself and never return.

As long as you continue to crack that whip on yourself and everybody else in this harsh, harsh world, you'll never know if deeper contentment (and therefore, more profound health) is EVER possible.

Children, however, deserve the chance to find out if acceptance works.

Who are you to get in their way?
If it was a campaign against the obeise you would have a point as it is this is pretty ignorant. Nothing in the campaign by the First Lady is attacking children and we have a pretty dramatic rise in obesity and complications due to it in this country.
Kim, I agree with everything you say here:

And yet not many people are willing to tell Big Food to stop loading up their edibles with combinations of fat, salt and sugar that have been proven to be as physically addictive as cocaine, and which are unnecessary. Few people are willing to make the parent companies of chain restaurants take responsibility for pushing huge gooey portions of food on prime time TV viewers, or for creating unnecessarily huge portions, for "supersizing" their meals or inventing "Fourth Meal" as Taco Bell has done -- all in the name of SELLING MORE.

In fact, I would add that the way we subsidize corn growing in this country and other farms (rather than organic vegetable ones, for example) is largely responsible for the incredible lack of choice we have in making food decisions.

But this is what confuses me about your post: Are you on board with such propositions from people like Michael Pollan (of FOOD INC. fame)? Because he too is against the rise in obesity. He just doesn't blame individuals the way the right seems to. He is much more interested in holding corporations and the government responsible for the trends toward food that makes us fat and ill.

Or are you against any effort to reduce obesity in America?
Lainey, I don't think there's any one reason why ALL fat people are fat. Therefore, forcing food companies to own up to their significant role in the rise in obesity rates is not going to make everyone svelte. Some people really ARE genetically predisposed to being stocky, and no amount of dieting in the world is going to give them Kate Moss's figure. Some people have broken metabolic systems -- possibly caused by years of yo-yo dieting, possibly caused by hormone additives in food, or any number of other causes science hasn't discovered yet. We put so much shit into our food, god only knows what we're swallowing that may be contributing to excessive adipose tissue.

I think trying to battle obesity is the wrong angle. I think we should be looking at food additives, the way food is advertised, how we eat as individuals, how much activity we DON'T get anymore.

When we frame our battle as a battle against fatness itself, we're merely proclaiming open season on fat people. We're encouraging an already fat-prejudiced society to further demonize those who BEAR the fat. Our energy and attention would be much better spent focusing on the possible variety of causes of fatness, and educating people to eat in a way that best nourishes their individual body.

If we made it impossible, or at least difficult, to manufacture and hypnotically push junk food , and simultaneously promoted physical activity and balanced nutrition while also making wholesome foods available to all, many people would lose weight. It would be a natural response to altered habits.

But when still others DON'T lose weight, we cannot allow society to mistreat those people. We permitted a certain lifestyle to take hold in this country, and it screwed with a lot of peoples' minds and bodies. The result of that may be weight-loss resistant people -- whether it's a metabolic issue or a psychological issue. Either way, no one deserves to be treated poorly or denied their civil rights because of the size or shape of their bodies. This is not about personal gluttony. If anything, it's about cultural gluttony.

So when you ask if I'm against any effort to reduce obesity, my answer is that I think any effort to reduce obesity should be a personal, individual choice. I don't think it's the government's place to be pointing fingers at one huge swath of the population and suggesting that they need to be corrected en masse -- particularly when the government has failed to properly recognize and regulate the very corporate interests who've done the most to foster and perpetuate the "epidemic".

It's also important to realize that when one group of people is so vastly discriminated against the way fat people are -- in fact, so vastly hated, laughed at, disrespected -- it's highly unwise to frame a health initiative around the very characteristic that defines that one widespread prejudice. It's entirely possible to promote healthy lifestyles without formally sanctioning the stigmatization of fat people. Those are the efforts I support.
Good grief, Kim. Your ranting to my wife only suggests that you do have serious self-loathing issues. That didn't come from me or my wife.

It's not good to be fat and there is simply no way to spin that truth to make it not so. You seem to have confused denial for thinking.

Mrs. Obama wants our kids to be healthier. All that hatred of fat people and making kids feel bad about themselves nonsense is you projecting your skewed reality and has nothing to do with the worthwhile goal reducing childhood obesity.

Making that into something else is just flat wrong.
Good grief, Parrothead. You seem to have confused opining for ranting. Or don't you like it when someone dares to challenge your limited view of the world? Admittedly, it does take a bit of mental stretching to move beyond the popular meme of fat=bad to entertain an approach to helping fat children that doesn't demonize them at the same time. You don't appear to be fit enough yet. Maybe you need to work harder.
All I am going to say is if Let's Move in whatever form returns PE and recess to our children AND gets more money spent for our cafeterias then I am for it. Yes the Word Obesity should be removed but the thought behind it is a good start.
I am against obesity and see nothing redeeming about it. Childhood obesity? It's a crime. Feeding children crap to eat is wrong on so many levels. There surely are some with out of whack metabolisms and a bad set of genes, but when was the last time you saw an obese person in the check-out line at the grocery story with a cart full of healthy food?

I say go Michelle! I applaud any progress she can make in reducing childhood obesity and promoting healthy eating and exercise for our children.
What in Mrs. Obama's program demonizes fat kids?

It's not that your point is lost on me but you're aiming your cannon in the wrong direction. Telling kids that it's bad to overeat and not exercise is not that same telling kids that they are bad or that they don't deserve acceptance for who they are as human beings.

If you see an underlying message that is anything other than the above, that's on you.

And lose the whole "you can't think for yourself if you don't agree with me" routine. It's silly and pointless.
For what it's worth, I totally agree with holding big food accountable for the harm they are doing. The Fourth Meal campaign is despicable. That KFC meat sandwich is sickening... literally.

Still, the bottom line is that no one is responsible for what goes into your body but you. It isn't shitting on fat people to acknowledge that reality.

I'm trying to disagree without denigration or name calling. You might try doing the same.
@Ablonde:

"There surely are some with out of whack metabolisms and a bad set of genes, but when was the last time you saw an obese person in the check-out line at the grocery story with a cart full of healthy food?"


Hm.

My cart is filled with veggies and a melon and a lot of fish and chicken. And I am a fatty.

Everyone needs to come spot me now.
By the way, Mrs. Parrotdead has a degree in psychology and an IQ you can't even come close to, so she's probably more an authority on the subject than you are.
Here's one specific example of what a "fluffy" campaign that seems all rhetoric can actually accomplish:

Teachers can jump on the bandwagon and simply stop rewarding kids with candy. I am a substitute teacher and every single classroom in memory has drawers, treasure chests, buckets, or baskets full of crappy penny candy that they use as treats for kids who perform like seals. I can imagine that some well-meaning principal--using the MO campaign--might cite the First Lady as her reasoning for simply banning such practice. And then those of us who actually care about education--ie, intrinsic motivation and the superiority of a constructivist philosophy over behaviorism--get our wish. That's something that would be magnificent and has nothing to do with obesity.

Lunch Lady brings up some other points: A campaign such as MO's might trigger school policies that affect lunch choices and recess/gym schedule changes. Those things can and are done without any fanfare or demonization; they are discussed at board meetings and then explained at faculty meetings and then implemented. Period.
Kim, I think your post should be an Editor's Pick; it's a provocative topic with excellent arguments on both sides.
Sorry P. I think you are an exception and since you are exceptional in so many other ways this is not surprising. Maybe you have an out of whack metabolism? Or you find exercise (generally) as boring as I do.

Even when the food we eat is good and healthy and organic, if we eat more than we burn, we gain. Doesn't matter if it's an organic peach or Doritos, the weight thing is really a numbers game. And hell I'm sitting here on a fat ass myself and yes, I know that at my age my metabolism is changing so that's part of it, but I also know that if I get my lazy ass in gear and exercise more it'll make a big difference, at the very least I'll be able to eat more . It doesn't help when my neighbors bring me whopping slices of still warm peach pie with BIG scoops of vanilla ice cream -- to my doorstep. Damn them.

I'm an adult and I didn't have to eat that pie. I am weak and I did.

Healthier kids with eating habits that will serve them well the rest of their lives? What could be wrong with that? When children are reaching levels of morbid obesity before hitting puberty, well that is a crisis.
Ablonde, I don't really disagree with your conclusion (that an anti-obesity campaign for children is mostly a good thing, most especially if it triggers larger policies that keep children moving and developing healthy eating habits), but you say some things that feel shallow to me in terms of understanding the complexity of obesity. For example:

... if I get my lazy ass in gear and exercise more it'll make a big difference, at the very least I'll be able to eat more .

...I'm an adult and I didn't have to eat that pie. I am weak and I did.


Recent research emphasized that there isn't the connection between exercise and weight loss that people think there is, and in fact, many people who exercise end up eating more because they become hungrier and because they overcompensate for the calories burned. Apparently (this was news to me when I read about it in the spring), there are no and have never been medical/bariatric studies that advocate exercise as therapy for weight loss.

Your comment about being weak and lazy--which can be summarized as relating to "will power"--is also misleading, since there is much going on in the brain that varies from one person to the next on that. As it happens, there are many fat people who eat less than others--there's something complicated going on re glucose metabolism or something--but even if they do--that is, even if they eat more food and more bad food--that could also be part of the brain problem that others see as so simplistically solved. If gorging herself is part of some woman's daily routine, that might not be an indication of her lack of will power or something psychological; it's more than likely something physical relating to her satiety mechanism. I'm glad that the newer research is looking into some of these more complicated things.

Anyway, I'm certainly no expert. I just wanted to say that I think it's more complicated than will power.
RE: Ablonde's "There surely are some with out of whack metabolisms and a bad set of genes, but when was the last time you saw an obese person in the check-out line at the grocery story with a cart full of healthy food?"

Let's see... yesterday's grocery purchase consisted of organic veggies, strawberries & blueberries, low-fat cottage cheese (I think I'm the one fat chick on the planet who actually likes the stuff), 2% milk from cows not shot up with hormones, meat substitutes (no meat -- I'm a lacto-ovo vegetarian, and have been since 1986), cage free eggs, EVOO, cheddar cheese and 12-grain bread.

Guess that kinda blows the theory that all us fatties buy nothing but Twinkies and McDonald's cheeseburgers.

Oh yeah... and according to the surgeon who saved my life when my appendix burst and perforated my colon and intestine, my weight had NOTHING to do with what happened to me, and actually saved my life. He said that had I been "one of those skinny girls you'd probably be dead." As it was, I could afford the 45-pound loss during my 5-week stay (9 days in ICU) for acute peritonitis. Score one for the fat chicks. ;)

While I was in the ICU a man 15 years younger than me, and with less wrong with him died. But I suppose his loved ones should take comfort that he died skinny, right?

And the subject here is not what I eat or buy or what anyone else eats or buys... it's about demonizing those who have the audacity not to conform to the rigid societal standards of what is supposedly "healthy" or "pretty" or "handsome" or "right" -- and our First Lady's misguided attempt to lump all childhood health issues as stemming from merely being fat.

The last people we should be burdening with additional stigmas are children. They have enough to deal with as it is -- including the often perverse over-scheduling of their lives by their parents.

Feed 'em with as healthy food as you can in your budget, and make sure they move and play and dream and imagine. Don't force them into rigid molds and try to replay/revise your own childhood failures or successes through them. Stop with the "play dates" already and just let them PLAY. Gee... how about maybe playing WITH them and not being so critical of everything they do, say and eat?

And when those kids whose bodies aren't set up to be svelte (no matter how healthy they eat and how much they exercise) do NOT change -- or change only marginally -- don't make them feel worse by trying to bribe them with new wardrobes ("If you'll only lose the rest of that weight") or a trip to Disneyland ("You'll have so much more fun there if you're not fat") or by punishing them by withholding your love, affection, praise and admiration because YOU have an issue with THEIR bodies.

Don't make your child put his or her life on hold just because YOU think they should be someone other than who they are or have a body that is different from what YOU consider to be "acceptable."

Focus on Health at Every Size (http://www.lindabacon.org/haes.html) instead of automatically assuming that every thin person is healthy and every fat person is not.

In the meantime, try to keep your stereotypical assumptions to a minimum and stop being the danged food police and concentrate on what's in your own shopping cart.
A stocky child is not obese. A skinny girl who is dieting IS a problem, but it's not obesity. Childhood obesity is the issue Mrs. Obama is addressing at the top of your post.

Obesity is defined as a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health. Obese is not fat or stocky. Obese is obese.

I was bemused that you used the phrase "carrot sticks and playing tag" because it so clearly shows that you don't understand healthy eating. Either that or it was sarcasm or humor or wry wit? Not sure, because I don't know you.

What I do know is that different foods have different effects on our body. I would wager a bet that if 100 obese children were fed according to the Glycemic Index for 30 days, well over half of them would lose weight and start to feel healthier. But most people don't even know what the glycemic index is, much less use it when preparing meals for their kids.

As for "big food" - it's all about profit. As long as people buy something, they will continue to produce it. As consumers, we steer the corporations with our pocketbooks.

The more we expect "government" to "take care of," the less we have a say in. I do not want government legislating how my food can be prepared, lest some bonehead think GMO food is a good idea.

I agree that children should not be stigmatized or singled out. There's enough of that already. Enough ridicule. Enough bullying. Kids who are obese (not fat or stocky) are ridiculed already. Count on it. Question is - how do we help them. I don't believe it's by telling them it's okay to be obese, because it's not okay. Children shouldn't be obese. Stocky, sure. A little chubby - okay. Obese? No. Obesity is not genetic nor is it just part of growing up.
What seems to be lost on so many commenters here is that my objections to Michelle Obama linking the fight against "childhood obesity" to her "Let's Move" campaign is essentially about what fat children go through socially and how it can adversely affect their ability to make healthy lifestyle changes.

There's so much discussion about food and controlling its intake here, but few of you seem to get that the FRAMING of this initiative is what I have a problem with. (In fact, Cap'n Parrotdead went so far as to create his own post in which he lied to his readers and said I was actually encouraging children to eat poorly and stop exercising. In fact, he went so far as to tag his post, "Kim Brittingham is killing our children". Well THAT settles it. HERE'S a guy you want to listen to.)

Fat children know they're fat. BELIEVE ME. They know it. We never let them forget it, Michelle Obama or no Michelle Obama.

Look at it this way. Let's say you have a choice between:

a) standing up before a room full of children and encouraging them to exercise more, or

b) standing up before a room full of children and encouraging them to exercise more, and then throwing a handful of knives into the audience.

Why would you select b), unless you wanted to hurt someone?

You can help children get healthier without doing harm.

By pinning the "fight against childhood obesity" onto messages about her "Let's Move" campaign, Michelle Obama is reminding fat children (unnecessarily) that they need to be "fixed" -- not the kind of positive reinforcement that generally works. As for the thin children, she's merely reinforcing the fact that the fat kids have something "wrong" with them, which for kids often translates into the "different" child becoming a target for cruelty, ostracization, etc.

Imagine this. Somewhere, there's an 8-year-old kid who's under five feet tall and already 300 pounds. He takes Michelle Obama's messages to heart and makes some changes, and drops 100 pounds. We can all agree that's a lot of weight, right? Then his weight stops moving. He's eating moderate food portions, his diet is nutritionally balanced, he gets plenty of exercise. If he eats any less he'll be starving. He's doing everything right, but still, no further weight loss. His parents and teachers applaud him for his significant accomplishment, but to the rest of the world, this now-200-pound child still appears "fat".

Meanwhile, the battle against childhood obesity continues to rage. Grown-ups at Little League murmur behind the child's back, "What a shame, to be that big, and so young. His mother should be reported for child abuse." The child wonders, "What more can I do to get these people off my back?" He starts thinking of ways to restart his weight loss. Never mind that he's a growing boy and what's left of his body fat may shift on its own as he gets older. "What more can I do? I'm still not good enough for them yet." Maybe he stops eating altogether. Maybe he starts vomiting. Now, we're in dangerous territory.

Maybe, just maybe, if this kid had understood that his goal was simply to change his habits -- not necessarily to "not be FAT anymore" -- he would've wound up better off in the end. His newfound healthy relationship with food would not have turned unhealthy; he'd be feeling good about himself and what he'd already achieved.

Maybe he even would've dropped more weight. After all, the release of stress hormones can hinder weight loss. And if he'd not felt like such a failure after only 100 pounds lost, maybe he wouldn't have felt so much stress.

I have to wonder about anyone who'd stand by choice b), above. Or anyone who, in one breath, would argue that obesity is a health issue, and in the next breath would oversimplify the issue by saying it's as clear-cut as calories in, calories out, or that it's all about willpower. I hear this all the time.

If a person is genuine about wanting fat people to get thinner for their good health, why wouldn't they be willing to entertain theories beyond mere willpower and calorie counting? To me, dismissing fat people with disgust because they're not responding to one simplistic approach suggests prejudice, not compassion.

When so many people respond so angrily to a fat person saying, "Hey, I've seen it -- this doesn't work for a lot of fat people", you have to wonder...who wants fat people to be healthier, and who just wants fat people GONE?

It doesn't matter if it's a fat person challenging another fat person. If you're insistent that there's only ONE WAY to approach fatness, then you're not speaking from a place of good will. It *is* a complex issue. What works for you may not work for someone else.

We've got an awful lot of people out there who are emphatically "against" fatness because it's unhealthy. It stands to reason, then, that those same people would be in favor of anything that permanently (for lack of a better word) "cures" fatness. So if encouraging healthy habits WITHOUT harping on obesity MIGHT WORK, why are you so quick to dismiss it? Does it sound too "easy" on the fat people? If so, then it sounds to me like you want fat people PUNISHED, first and foremost. And what's THAT about? Good will, or just plain hatred?
Q: Since when is a kid's weight anybody else's business?
A: Since the invention of schoolyard cruelty taking a personal issue which has nothing to do with oneself and twisting it into an opportunity to make another kid cry. Fat people are here to entertain everyone else! Fat people exist for the benefit of the self-righteous! No fat chicks!

Ed. note: Sarcasm.
Kim... you make some good points in the last comment. First and foremost, it is NOT just about calories in, calories out. NOT, NOT, NOT!! That's the mistake too many people make

Maybe, just maybe, if this kid had understood that his goal was simply to change his habits -- not necessarily to "not be FAT anymore" -- he would've wound up better off in the end. His newfound healthy relationship with food would not have turned unhealthy...

This part confuses me, though. Mostly because it addresses application of the program, which I confess I know nothing about. Yes, children need to "move" more. But they also need to learn more about nutrition. They can learn that at school, or they can learn that at home - but they need to learn it somewhere. Because, as you point out - it's NOT just about calories in and calories out.

What I don't know is how the program will be implemented and what will be taught. Maybe that information is out there already. I don't know because I haven't checked.

What I wouldn't do is speculate or assume (with regard to implementation) because kids deserve more than speculation and assumption. But it's good to be having the conversations publicly. If nothing else, perhaps a small handful of people will realize that it's not just calories in, calories out. Maybe one or two will go look up the Glycemic Index. Those would both be good things.
Parrothead...I think your wife and I might have a lot in common..I have a couple of degrees in psychology myself, know a feck of a lot about nutrition, and am not thin. I get your perspective. I do.

But there seems to be a lot of willful misunderstanding of the author's premise. In no way does she advocate NOT eating healthy...or NOT exercising....or NOT taking care of yourself.

She is just saying that shaming people into being thin doesn't work well, and she finds aspects of this campaign to be shaming. I don't necessarily agree with this...but I STRONGLY agree with her general premise: That fat people know they are fat, that losing weight is more complicated than most people realize, and that shaming children into thinness not only doesn't work, but can have long term, damaging consequences.

SO MANY commentors here have made this about how ALL fatties are unhealthy, how ALL fatties eat like crap, and how ALL fatties should simply...well....get small or go away.

Sorry...but there is so much person bias and prejudice here, I doubt that good exchange can happen.

Its like funsunA Said: Eat healthy and exercise is not the same message as Fight obesity. Rated.
Parrothead...I think your wife and I might have a lot in common..I have a couple of degrees in psychology myself, know a feck of a lot about nutrition, and am not thin. I get your perspective. I do.

But there seems to be a lot of willful misunderstanding of the author's premise. In no way does she advocate NOT eating healthy...or NOT exercising....or NOT taking care of yourself.

She is just saying that shaming people into being thin doesn't work well, and she finds aspects of this campaign to be shaming. I don't necessarily agree with this...but I STRONGLY agree with her general premise: That fat people know they are fat, that losing weight is more complicated than most people realize, and that shaming children into thinness not only doesn't work, but can have long term, damaging consequences.

SO MANY commentors here have made this about how ALL fatties are unhealthy, how ALL fatties eat like crap, and how ALL fatties should simply...well....get small or go away.

Sorry...but there is so much person bias and prejudice here, I doubt that good exchange can happen.

Its like funsunA Said: Eat healthy and exercise is not the same message as Fight obesity. Rated.
Hear, here! What Persephone said!

[nice to see you again, P!]
I'm with Kim and Persephone.

As Kim put it:

"When we frame our battle as a battle against fatness itself, we're merely proclaiming open season on fat people."

That's it, in a nutshell.

Lainey, I will agree: if some dietary changes are made in schools, that will be an accomplishment of sorts.

And I'd like to add (dare I at this point?) that my real gripe with her campaign is that I'd much prefer someone of her caliber and power to be in the Gulf, getting her hands dirty and making a real difference, not hanging out with Oprah Winfrey, wearing just the right pearls.

My point is she's the First Lady and a powerful woman. It's a seemingly feel-good campaign when there are SO many other issues a woman of her intelligence and strength could take on, head-on, balls out.

This is no time to fuck around - our world is becoming undone, the ecology is almost beyond repair, the corporate structure has all but taken over, no one can afford to get sick anymore. These two were supposed to make a REAL difference. This is no time for cuteness:

http://www.letsmove.gov/getactive.php

Hoola fucking hoops? What the fuck?

Listen - health matters. Skinny people can be unhealthy and overweight people can be healthy. The way we eat in this country is abysmal, of course. But THIS won't change anything. This campaign cannot reach some of the underpinnings of the health issues that we're up against in this country.

Did a message to "Just Say No" make a difference to drug intake in this country? No. Why? Because it didn't even begin to TAP the real issues when it comes to drugs. Now had Nancy Reagan taken her ass down to Columbia to chat it up with some drug lords, I might have listened.

What's next? A "Save the Barbie Dolls" campaign? Or how about a "Let's Bring Back TeaTime!" or a "I Like Feathers!" campaign?

To MO, I say grow some.
I just wish she had taken on school lunches like that British fellow. It would have been nice if it had been one of our own that started that movement. The momentum might have been greater. Healthy Kids would have been something most folks could get on board with. No one benefits from the grease, salt, and calorie laden fast food - it's not targeting heavy people, it's pushed on everyone and I would be the first to boycott it. Oh. What am I saying? I haven't been through a drive through since 1992. Look what an impact I've had on the fast food industry! Nobody ever listens to me.
Amen. My daughter was a chubby baby and a chubby kid until she was well into high school. She was always healthy. Now at 25, she is trim and most probably unfit. She works too much and eats on the run...but she isn't chubby anymore.
I guess what I'm wondering is how you separate an obese child who is healthy from an obese child who isn't healthy. Because even if you've got a child who is obese but relatively healthy, that doesn't mean he or she is going to stay that way if the obesity remains. I would say that you're starting out at a real disadvantage if you're obese at the age of 7 or 8, and things are not going to get any easier.

But, it is a good point to make that eating healthy and exercising is a better way to approach the issue than simply fighting obesity. Everyone can benefit from that.